Trade minister Kaag to attend world trade summit in Buenos Aires

From yesterday to Thursday, foreign trade and development minister Sigrid Kaag represents the Netherlands at the biennial Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires. Looming over this year’s meeting of 164 countries is the shadow of increasing economic protectionism.

Ms Kaag’s message to the delegates gathered in the Argentinian capital is that protectionism is not the right way to protect jobs or businesses or to strengthen the economy. ‘Instead, we need solid, balanced trade agreements,’ Ms Kaag explained. ‘Boosting trade and investment – while taking account of decent work and environmental conditions, food quality and other important standards – will create greater prosperity for us all, both here in the Netherlands and in developing countries.’ The minister will also emphasise the importance of a level playing field for businesses, in the interests of fair competition.

During the conference Ms Kaag will also attend a number of sessions on gender equality, such as the SheTrades Forum. In many countries it is still difficult or impossible for women to play a full part in economic life or to advance to leadership positions in companies. ‘Above all, this inequality denies women opportunities,’ Ms Kaag said. ‘But the spin-off effects are detrimental to the whole of society. After all, optimum economic growth is only achieved if everyone’s talents are put to use.’ The minister will also take part in the UNCTAD panel, which will discuss how world trade can help to secure human rights and the sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as eradicating extreme poverty, ending hunger and achieving gender equality by 2030.

While in Argentina, Ms Kaag will visit a number of Dutch companies operating there, including a Philips Lighting plant in Buenos Aires, which manufactures LED lights for the South American market. After this she will tour the Farm Frites factory, which is currently investing in expanding its production lines (which are also made in the Netherlands). Finally, the minister will visit a dredging vessel built by the Sliedrecht-based shipbuilding firm IHC. On board, she will attend the signing of a cooperation agreement between IHC and Argentinian dredging companies about deploying similar vessels for dredging work in the future.